On trees, judges, Congress, Iraq, death, Holland, taxes, etc.

Posted: Nov 09, 2003 12:00 AM

Reviewing some recent highs and lows in the news...

Tree people long have known that despite the preaching of environmental extremists, unmanaged forests where loggers do not go are invitations to fire. How sad that it required the California holocaust (800,000 acres, 3,000 houses and billions of dollars in property - all lost) to convince the Senate to get moving on President Bush's healthy-forest initiative calling for expedited tree-thinning on 20 million acres of federal forests. Says a chastened (mugged-by-reality?) Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California: There is a tremendous lesson in these fires - that the land has to be managed.

Otherwise unchastened leftie senators are continuing to hold presidential judicial nominations hostage to ideology. Last week, they "borked" (refused to confirm) four moderate nominees deemed too extreme. One is Janice Rogers Brown, the first African-American elected (by the people, most recently carrying 76 percent of the vote) to the California Supreme Court. Judge Brown's disqualifier for a seat on the appellate court for the District of Columbia? Some of her California court opinions deviate from acceptable, politically correct, Democratic dogma.

In their effort to unseat President Bush, the Democrats are sharpening their knives. Last week Wesley Clark, in the words of a headline, placed "Responsibility for 9/11 at Bush's Feet." And Al Sharpton went after fellow Democrat Howard Dean - terming his agenda "anti-black."

In Iraq, these things: (1) The 233 attacks in but a single week, mostly on Americans, have driven the guerrilla-war death toll (President Bush declared combat over on May 1) past the number of Americans killed in the period of formal combat.

(2) Among the dead: the fourth woman in the U.S. military to be killed in Iraq. Question: If even Israel now is barring nearly all women from combat positions, why does the United States insistently push them into harm's way?

(3) The Pentagon is notifying more National Guard and Reserve forces they may be called to serve in Iraq next year - given the thin ranks of active-duty troops. Question: Why is the Bush administration delaying in advocating one year of compulsory universal service - with a front-end military component - for all men and women 18 to 23?

Are the suicide bombings against (principally) Americans in Iraq inspiring Americans here to sympathize more with innocent Israelis so often targeted by Palestinian suicidists?

The accelerated targeting of Americans emphasizes nothing quite so much as the foremost objective of the allied enterprise in Iraq - to get Saddam.

Two news items suggest Holland has dropped over the edge. First, just two years after the government sanctioned homosexual marriage there, 8 percent of all Dutch marriages are same-sex unions. Second, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy says the Dutch government "isn't serious enough" about shutting down the Dutch synthetic drug industry that is the largest provider of illegal drugs, such as Ecstasy, to the United States and the rest of the world.

Earlier this year the Nature Conservancy, a huge coalition of land preservationists and long one of the country's most estimable conservation groups, was disclosed to be selling land it oversees to its trustees for fancy houses and such. Now the Conservancy seems to be getting a grip, emphasizing ethics, and developing internal regulations regarding how its lands may be used. Good. And none too soon.

Oh, and a key Republican senator has caved (sort of) - on estate-tax abolition. Recognizing that abolition of the tax will not fly in the Senate as currently constituted, Arizona's John Kyl is proposing to raise the estate tax exemption to $15 million for individuals ($30 million for couples) and to lower the tax rate on inherited assets above that level to 15 percent - the current rate on capital gains and dividends. Right now the estate tax is scheduled to phase out in 2010 - only to revive at exorbitant rates in 2011 unless Congress makes the phase-out permanent. Kyl's proposal certainly isn't elimination, but it may be better than anything else this Senate might approve in the realm of permanent death-tax reduction.